This is where the review takes a turn. Up until now, it's been civil between the Galaxy S4 and I, but now, the gloves are coming off. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and again, and again, I hate, hate, hate TouchWiz UI.
I'm a huge fan of the pure Android experience which is what Google gives us on the Nexus devices, but the TouchWiz UI has to go. I said in a previous review that I wish Samsung offered stock Android ROMs, and I'm sure they listened.
Samsung has been smart enough to unleash a "Google Edition" of the Galaxy S4, which is pretty much the Galaxy S4 with stock Android. Samsung Australia only gave me the pleasure of using the standard S4, with TouchWiz, and I hated it.
The first week, which is what I like to call the smartphone honeymoon period, was great. The Galaxy S4 and I skipped through fields, held hands, had candlelit dinners and fell asleep in each other's arms. Moving into week two, there were some issues popping up.
Sometimes apps would randomly crash, with Chrome being the biggest culprit. I've probably had 1-2 crashes with Chrome in my many, many years of running Android devices. But, on the Galaxy S4, in the second week of testing, it crashed maybe once every two days, and on one particular day, three times. It wasn't the same website, it was different websites. Oh, and when I say "crash", I mean the Galaxy S4 does a complete hard reboot. Yeah. I'll leave the rest of the sentence blank to let that sink in a little.
On the third and fourth week (now) the Gallery app has some serious issues... for example, if I take a photo, and then tap in the top right of the camera app to look at the last photo taken, it will take sometimes 15-30 seconds for the photos to load.
If I close Gallery, reopen it, and check back again, it loads it fine. I don't know if it's the particular Galaxy S4 I have, but I've read other people experiencing the same issues. I get none of these issues on my Nexus 4, or in any of the other samples I've received, including other Galaxy smartphones like the Note II.
TouchWiz includes so many different options and tweaks, it's really hard to write them all down without this review leaking into a 20-page review. I'll cover the main ones so that I'm not going over the same things because most of them are just TouchWiz features.
Samsung has pretty much tried to cover all of its bases with the S4, as it includes all of the features that the Note II has, as well as everything that the S III includes. We have toggles for Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and much more up top.
The home screen really got to me off, as you can't just arrange things the way you want them. For example, the Phone, Contacts, Messaging and Internet shortcuts, cannot be removed. This is a huge flaw of TouchWiz, and something I truly hate with a passion.
It forces me to have icons that I don't use all that often, such as Contacts and Internet. I don't go into Contacts that often, I instead use the Phone app, and for the Internet, I use Chrome. Samsung, get over TouchWiz, and at least open it up a little - no wait... a lot.
One of the awesome features of TouchWiz - see, I'm not a complete hater - is the S Health app. Samsung - serious kudos on this - you killed it. There's Calorie Management, which is broken up into three subcategories: Walking mate, Exercise mate and Food tracker.
Surroundings offers a look at your Comfort level. Health diary will keep tabs on your weight, and finally, Other, where Settings resides. I don't work out, so I only used Walking mate. It keeps tabs on every single step that I take with a goal of 10,000 steps per day.
During PAX Australia 2013 last month, I walked the various exhibits and those show grounds for hours. As I jumped into the taxi to go back to my hotel to write up some content, my phone buzzed and made some glorious sound. I only just sat down, but with that last step into the taxi I had reached 10,000 steps and S Health was alerting me I had reached my goal. This is a nice reminder, without being constantly reminded that your health is being monitored.
Moving onto another nice feature of TouchWiz, and the S4, is the Air view, and Air gesture modes. I used neither of these, as they simply don't appeal to me whatsoever. I seriously don't see the point of using my smartphone, waving my hands like a damn lunatic in front of its display to do something I can quickly do with my fingers. But, the feature is there if you want it, peeps.
As I said, I could seriously sit here for hours writing about the various features of the S4 and TouchWiz, but the list is truly too long. These features, in my humble opinion, are perfect for in-store salespeople to push onto would-be Galaxy S4 owners.
The multi-tasking capabilities of the Galaxy S4 are something that is easy to get used to, which you can see the UI of above.
I can see it now "oh, check this out, Sir", "the Galaxy S4 has an Air gesture feature *waves hands in front of the Galaxy S4*...", to which the middle-aged, non-tech savvy consumer goes "can I do that with my current iPhone 4?", the salesperson would reply with a sparkle in his eye "no, no you can't, Sir". The consumer walks out with a two-year contract based on some - mostly - gimmicky features.
What I would suggest, instead of me telling you about them, is to go in and have a look for yourself before you purchase it. If you could find a retailer which offers a week trial, or a return and swap for another smartphone, I highly, highly recommend this option.
The camera interface has been spruced up, with a bunch of different options you can use to take your photos. Most of the time I left it on auto, but it's nice to have a bunch of options to play with if that's something that tickles your fancy.
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
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- Page 1 [Introduction & Specifications, Pricing and Availability]
- Page 2 [Look and Feel]
- Page 3 [Display & Speaker Quality]
- Page 4 [Features]
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